Values describe how we want to behave now and always, and indicate how we want to treat ourselves, those near to us, and the world around us. They help us grow and develop, and create our present and our future. They inspire us, motivate us, and make our lives meaningful. Living by our values means consciously choosing to focus on what matters to us. When the going gets tough, choosing to behave according to our values motivate us and keeps us going.

Values are different to goals. Goals are what you want to complete, achieve, have, or own. Values are how you want to behave as a human being.

Seven facts about values


1: Values are global qualities that we desire and follow on an ongoing basis

Values describe how we want to behave on an ongoing basis. Values are our moral compass, our reasons for being, what we want to be remembered for, and what gets us out of bed in the morning. They are global qualities that permeate every aspects of our action. We want and choose to follow them, and do so on an ongoing basis.

2: Values are how we want to behave now and always; goals are what we aim for in the future

Goals are what we want to have, get or achieve in the future. Values are how we want to behave now, for the rest of your life, and every step of the way. Values describe how we want to act on the way to achieving our goal, whether we achieve the goal or not. People who focus only on goals and are constantly aiming for something in the future may end up missing out on the sense of fulfilment and satisfaction that living one's values in the here and now brings.


3: Values apply to self and others

Those values that guide our behaviour to others also guide how we treat ourselves

4: Values often have to be prioritised

In may situations, competing interests will dictate that we cannot follow all our values all the time. Instead, we choose which values we follow in any given situation. This doesn't mean that other values have disappeared, they are just not at the forefront at this moment

5: Values are best held lightly

Values guide our behaviour. We don't want to be obsessed with them, because otherwise they can become like oppressive and restrictive commandments. They are there as a guiding compass on a sea of possibilities, not a rigid railway line with only one direction.

6: Values are freely chosen

We don't have to behave in this way, we simply choose to do so because following those values matters to us.

7: Values don't need to be justified

Values are simply statements of how we wish to behave. It is often impossible to say why we have them, and there is no need to ever justify them in the same way that we don't need to justify our favourite colour.

(after Russ Harris)

What are your values?


Knowing what our own values are is a key step towards values-based living. By following our values, we are doing what matters to us, which is a powerful step towards being at our best. It also means that, no matter what, we have a choice of what we do next: instead of reacting in ways that are self-destructive, counter-productive and unhelpful, we choose to act in accordance with our values and move in a direction that matters to us.

You may already know what your own values are, or can discover them with a bit of thinking. There are a number of questionnaires that one can use to discover values, such as VIA, or lists such as Russ Harris.​ Some common values are listed below. There are lots of other values too, so you may have your own that is not on this list. There is also a degree of overlap between the different values. Remember there are no right or wrong ones, what matters is knowing what yours are and spending your life doing things that are aligned with your values.


  • Acceptance: willing to accept others (and self) and situations as they are

  • Adventure: seeking and exploring new experiences

  • Assertiveness: standing up for your own rights/needs/wishes in a socially acceptable fashion

  • Authenticity: being your own, honest self

  • Caring: looking after others

  • Compassion: acting kindly towards others and yourself

  • Connection: paying full attention to others and the present moment, being connected with others

  • Contribution and generosity: giving, sharing, helping

  • Cooperation: collaborating with others

  • Courage: being brave, persisting despite fear or difficulty

  • Creativity: being innovative, original, thinking outside the box

  • Curiosity: being open-minded, exploring

  • Encouragement: encouraging and rewarding

  • Engagement: being fully engaged with what you are doing or with others

  • Fairness and justice: being fair and just

  • Fitness: looking after physical and mental health

  • Flexibility: adapting to change

  • Freedom and independence: being able to choose

  • Friendliness: being agreeable and friendly

  • Forgiveness: being forgiving to others / self

  • Fun / humour: engaging in fun activities, enjoying humour

  • Gratitude: being appreciative

  • Honesty: being truthful

  • Industry: being hardworking and dedicated

  • Intimacy: to open up, reveal, and share myself, emotionally or physically

  • Kindness: being caring, nurturing, considerate

  • Love: being affectionate and loving

  • Order: being well organised 

  • Persistence / commitment: sticking at something despite difficulties

  • Respect/self-respect: to treat myself and others with care and consideration

  • Responsibility: being accountable

  • Safety and protection: ensuring safety of self and others

  • Sensuality and pleasure: enjoying pleasurable and sensual experiences

  • Sexuality: exploring / expressing sexuality

  • Skillfulness: continuously practicing and improve skills

  • Supportiveness: being helpful, available, supportive

  • Trust: being loyal, reliable, faithful

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